It was a packed house at the Baxter Avenue Theatres last night as Ed Hart and Bruce Lunsford offered an invitation-only screening of their new film, Dirty Girl. After the film, writer-director Abe Sylvia and Melissa Manchester, whose music is featured in the film, participated in a lively Q-and-A with Hart.
The movie is set in 1987 in Norman, Okla., where Danielle is the resident bad girl — she screws guys in the school parking lot, wears skimpy bad-girl clothes and smokes. She gets herself sideways with the principal and put in a remedial class. That’s where she meets Clark, who is fat, covers himself in a hoodie and is in denial of his homosexuality. Danielle, who lives in a trailer with her single Mom, wants to find her bio-dad, and Clark is trying to escape the enormous pressure his live-in father puts on him.
Sylvia, the director, said much of the screenplay was based on his life as a fat gay guy who didn’t want to play football, the key to masculinity in Oklahoma. He said he cast newcomer Jeremy Dozier from a Texas audition after considering hundreds. Juno Temple, who plays Danielle, was cast despite her English boarding school upbringing. Her performance steals the show.
There are plenty of nice surprises for the viewer, such as small parts played by Dwight Yoakam (as Clark’s controlling, raging father) and Tim McGraw (as Danielle’s bio-dad). Mary Steenburgen is made matronly as Clark’s concerned mom, and William H. Macy, as a Mormon who wants to marry Danielle’s mother, is laugh-out-loud funny.
The film, produced by Hart-Lunsford Pictures and others, opened in limited release last week. It was purchased by the Weinstein Company midway through its first screening.
The film will have its critics, but I liked the story, told simply with excellent acting and some really authentic 1980s music, scenery and hair.